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Elaine Aron, Ph.D.

Elaine N. Aron Ph.D.

Big Picture Living During a Time of Global Crisis

Support and perspective for HSPs during the COVID-19 global crisis.

Lately, I have been speaking about one way to reduce anxiety (a normal feeling for Highly Sensitive People or HSPs): Look at the big picture. I advise it now more than ever. But how do you maintain the big picture?

Ask yourself, what are your real risks? (Don’t minimize, but don’t catastrophize either.)

What will things be like a year from now? Even two months from now?

Hey, what amazing times these are. How will we all look back on them?

What would this look if you were on Mars? Could you see it as a robin?

I promise you, this will not last forever. Things always change. You can count on that, said the Buddha. If things seem to be changing for the worse, you can count on them also changing for the better.

Think of all the ways that things may end up better someday because of this event. Do it now, as an exercise in Big Reality.

How else do you keep the big picture? Partly, you do other things. If you are staying home more, as most of us are, use this time to go inward. What a great opportunity. The research finds that most HSPs agree that they have a “rich, complex inner life.” Feed it. Spend extra time, for example, meditating, journaling, attending to your dreams. Straighten, clean, and beautify the rooms in which you are living. Then take full notice of the things you love about this place. It helps the inner life as well as the outer one.

Your Intense Feelings

If your emotions are sometimes intense, accept that this is who you are. Do not be ashamed of it. The reality of your trait is part of the big picture. But as part of your turning inward, see if you can identify what parts of the situation trigger you most. That people are behaving so strangely? (That gets me—the scenes of panic buying in grocery stores.) That you feel so unsafe out in the world? Being shut-in? You may learn something about yourself as you examine these specific parts of your feelings and where they may come from in your past.

At the same time, if the emotions are too much for you, do what you can to regulate them. A great way to regulate emotion is to turn your attention to other things. That, too, is the bigger picture: There’s more to life than this “pandemic” (what a scary word). There are a few films about HSPs that might be interesting to you, such as Sensitive and in Love and Sensitive the Untold Story. Refresh your inner HSP.

Once you are on a roll, watch other super positive movies, such as It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. I just watched it and am still quoting it: Mrs. Rogers on her husband’s “sainthood”: “Don’t call him a saint, because that implies what he does is unattainable. We all can do it with some effort.” And Mr. Rogers on death: “It’s only human. If you can mention it, you can manage it.”

You Are Still a Highly Sensitive Social Animal

If you are home alone, remember you need some social interaction on a regular basis. It’s like food—we all need some every day, even or maybe especially introverts. Connect with someone at least briefly, even about business. Better, spend some extra time doing video or phone chats with friends and family. If that’s a short list, try You can talk to anyone shut in by the virus, anywhere in the world, whether you yourself are actually quarantined or not. It’s free.

If you are home with your family, maybe more than usual with schools closed, enjoy this time of special connection as much as you can. But remember you need downtime on a regular basis.

Please, stay away from excessive media coverage and social media. Ask someone less sensitive, someone you trust, to monitor the news for you, someone who is addicted to it (and get off the stuff yourself). Ask them to let you know if there is any solid information you really should know.

Always Back to the Big Picture

Remember you are an animal, not just a social one. You need to go outside in nature. Maybe sometimes it will just be for a moment, on a balcony, on your front step, or through a window. Look into the sky or at a tree. But try to get out for walks too (if you are allowed). Every day. Time in nature is another kind of necessary food, especially for HSPs.

Finally, remember the big picture. Did I say that? When you think in a more expansive way, you will feel calmer. And when you feel calmer–through meditation, nature, or whatever–you will have a bigger picture. Then, be the emotional leader you were born to be and radiate that calm to others. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” (These were FDR’s words to the U.S. when he announced entering WW II, and even that ended eventually, didn’t it?) Calm and kindness. Calm is as contagious as fear. Maybe when others are grabbing things off the shelves, you could start asking people what they are short of and share some of yours. (I am sure as an HSP, with all your creativity, you can think of ways to do without toilet paper!)

Your New Mantra: Big Picture!

Hey, we can look forward to another HS men’s weekend in 2021. The 16 at this one have already asked for another so they can come back. It’s in the big picture.


About the Author

Elaine Aron, Ph.D.

Elaine Aron, Ph.D., is a research and clinical psychologist, and the author of The Undervalued Self, The Highly Sensitive Person, and The Highly Sensitive Child.